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Figurez-vous un homme qui dort, qu'on assassine, et qui se réveille avec un couteau dans la gorge; et qui râle couvert de sang, et qui ne peut plus respirer, et qui va mourir, et qui ne comprend pas-voilà!

Je maigrissais d'une façon inquiétante, continue; et je m'aperçus soudain que mon cocher, qui était fort gros, commençait à maigrir comme moi.

Je lui demandai enfin: Qu'avez-vous donc, Jean? Vous êtes malade? Il répondit: — Je crois bien que j'ai gagné la même maladie que monsieur.

Je pensais donc qu'il y avait dans la maison une influence fiévreuse due au voisinage du fleuve et j'allais m'en aller pour deux ou trois mois, quand un petit fait très bizarre, observé par hasard, amena pour moi une telle suite de découvertes invraisemblables, fantastiques, effrayantes, que je restai.

The above is an excerpt from Le Horla, which has been slightly rewritten in Graded French Reader.

How should I understand the very last long sentence in English?

  • Does "quand" introduce a clause that modifies "deux ou trois mois"?
  • Is "fait" in "un petit fait très bizarre" a noun? As I looked it up into the dictionary, it could be a verb or an adjective. But I don't know which one should be correct.
  • Is "que" in "que je restai" referring to "une telle suite de découvertes"? How should I understand "restai une suite" in English?

[Added:] The original version by Maupassant of the last paragraph can be found here:

Je pensai donc qu'il y avait dans la maison une influence fiévreuse due au voisinage du fleuve et j'allais m'en aller pour deux ou trois mois, bien que nous fussions en pleine saison de chasse, quand un petit fait très bizarre, observé par hasard, amena pour moi une telle suite de découvertes invraisemblables, fantastiques, effrayantes, que je restai.

  • 2
    You made a mistake when you copied, you wrote "je pensais" and then "je pensai" : one is imparfait and the other is passé simple, watch out, they look they same and are easily mistaken. – Teleporting Goat Nov 4 '16 at 9:37
  • @TeleportingGoat: Ah, thanks for pointing that out! "pensais" is from the Graded French Reader, and "pensai" is from the online link, which is supposed to be the original version of Le Horla by Maupassant. – Jack Nov 4 '16 at 12:15
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Ok tough one.

Quand can either be an interrogative pronoun or a conjunction. As a side note, the relative pronoun for a noun that denotes time is not quand but . Here it's necessarily a conjunction because there's no question (neither direct nor indirect). When quand is used as a conjunction it can have two meanings. The more common one is to introduce a subordinate clause that defines when the main clause occurs. For example: Quand il pleut, je chante. But here it's different. In a narration it sometimes introduces a sudden event. A longer equivalent version is quand tout à coup… (when suddenly).

Fait dans un petit fait très bizarre is a noun, meaning “a fact”. Suddenly, this quite insignificant but very odd fact led to ensuing consequences.

Que in the last clause might be confusing. It's not a relative pronoun, so rester has no object. Rather it's part of a “tel(le) … que” construction. Again, not the most standard one… It's not a comparative (such as) but a correlative (such that). It's the same construction as in, for example, “He was such a fool that he ignored it”. According to the text, what followed from that odd fact was such a “suite de découvertes” that he stayed.

Hopefully this elucidates the complex sentence.

(To be honest I had to read the sentence twice to understand this “tel, que” association. I deem it a little unnatural. So I'd be eager to know what was the original phrasing… for better or worse.)

  • Wow, je suis français et moi aussi j'ai pas compris tout de suite le que je restai. Le tel est assez loin pour qu'on l'oublie le temps qu'on arrive au que si on le lit un peu vite... – Teleporting Goat Nov 4 '16 at 9:31
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Here "quand" doesn't modify (well depends on what you mean by modifiy) "deux ou trois mois" it just means "when" so when the things happened he decided to do maybe something different we don't know at this part of the sentence, but something happened.

You're right for the second, here "fait" is a noun, it can be translate as "fact". In is not too difficult to find this is a noun in your sentence because just before you have "un petit" and "petit" is an adjective, and you also know how much of "petit" there is, here "un". So "fait" in your sentence cannot be a verb there.

If you look for what verb it comes from, this is "faire" which means "to do" or "to make" we use only one for the both verbs you have in English.

And the last one, depends too on what you mean by "refer to". Here "que" means that because something happened ("quand un petit fait très bizarre") then he chose to stay "je restai".

Do you understand what I mean, do you need more precision ? I can translate the text with a basic English and you'll be sure to have a correct translation.

Hope it can help, have a good day.

  • Well, petit can also be a noun :-) – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 4 '16 at 1:05
  • It does help a lot! Thanks! – Jack Nov 4 '16 at 2:21
  • Welcome on French SE ;) – user10155 Nov 4 '16 at 9:08
  • @9-BBN: Section II. – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 4 '16 at 21:01
  • @StéphaneGimenez oui c'est vrai mais c'est anecdotique. D'autant que petit en tant que nom réfère à petit en tant qu'adjectif. Mais vous avez raison. Soyons précis. :) – Hexacoordinate-C Nov 5 '16 at 0:13

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